Stevie Benton talks about "This Is For The Soldiers" Tour
Band Photo: Drowning Pool (?)
Drowning Pool just kicked off their “This Is For The Soldiers” Tour Sept 3rd. I was able to get a phone interview with Stevie Benton, bassist for Drowning Pool. They were just getting ready for a show tonight but Stevie took time out of his busy schedule to give me a call. What can I say? These guys are fucking amazing!
Scottydawg: Ok, I’m talking to Stevie Benton, bassist for Drowning Pool.
Stevie Benton: That’s right, dude. Best lookin’ guy in every band (laughs).
Scottydawg: Well thanks for taking the time out for a phone interview. I know you have a show tonight so I won’t keep ya that long. Now you just kicked off “This is for the soldiers” Tour on Sept 3 which coincidentally was Labor Day. With that being the first show, what kind of reaction have you been getting from the fans?
Stevie: Awe, man, it’s been awesome. You know, we’ve been out on the road now since April so we just really kicked it off with the record coming out. So far the response has been awesome. Putting out a new record, you always hope that it’ll keep building, building, and building. That’s what makes doing a record worth while; you get to go out and play those songs live. Just seeing people go nuts and having a great time.
Scottydawg: Now this is for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Did Drowning Pool go to them or did they come to you guys with the idea of this tour?
Stevie: Well our relationship with them goes back quite a while. Our first USO tour was back in 2005 and after doing that tour, we kinda felt like going over there and playing for the soldiers and the troops stationed over there was awesome; but it felt like we wasn’t doing enough to try to help them out so after we got back that’s what led us to the IAVA and all the hard work that they’re trying to do to get better healthcare for returning troops. So we kinda hooked up with them and started trying to push those same issues. We’re all pretty much intertwined by now.
Scottydawg: While being over in Iraq, what have you personally seen and experienced?
Stevie: You know, our only exposure to most of that had been what you see on CNN so we really expected to see demoralized people when we got over there but all the troops we met were absolutely nothing like that. They were all extremely enthusiastic and just proud to be serving their country. These guys and girls that are signed up, they don’t have the luxury of being able to say whether or not we should be at war. They’re part of the military and it’s their duty to go so they just go with no questions asked.
Scottydawg: Were you guys nervous about being over there?
Stevie: It’s a little nerve racking being in a war zone ya know. In a way that’s kinda what let us to doing all this stuff like “thisisforthesoldiers.org”. We’re trying to get mandatory mental health care passed for these returning troops cause they’re stationed out there in the desert for fifteen months at a time; just always on edge, always in a war zone. They don’t have this “get away R&R”. They’re just over there for a long time and you can’t expect them when their tour is done to just come back home and assimilate back into normal life. It’s just too much to ask of anyone. So this Lane Evans Bill that we’re trying to push through is to generate the funding to make sure that all these troops returning have some useful health care evaluations. One in three are coming back with some type of post traumatic stress disorder or depression. Once they get back it’s really affecting them and their families. So this legislation is really important for the well-being of all these returning troops. No one wants to disregard these folks kinda the way these troops returning from Viet Nam were stuck away in a dark closet and ignored. These people need healthcare and they should get it.
Scottydawg: I think that’s commendable what Drowning Pool is doing for our troops. You also have your third album “Full Circle” that just came out Aug 7th. Can you tell us how this album, compared to your last two, may be different?
Stevie: Well we have Ryan in the band now; who is a different guy, a different singer. So as a musician, you learn after spending time with the guy and playing shows, you learn what their strengths and weaknesses are. Anytime you change a singer the music is gonna be a little different. I think for the most part you can tell it’s a Drowning Pool record but we tried to focus on doing some different things dynamic-wise. We didn’t want to just re-write “Bodies” over and over again. We wanted to get back to some other things that we use to do before we were a signed band and had some label A&R guy looking over our shoulder the whole frickin time trying to put in their two cents.
Scottydawg: “Full Circle” will be your first album with Ryan on vocals. How is his sound with Drowning Pool compared to that of Dave’s?
Stevie: They’re extremely different but Ryan is his own guy. He’s not trying to take Davie’s place. He was good friends with Dave and he understands where the band comes from; and how Dave was there from the beginning and will always be a part of the band. So Ryan just does his own thing. He’s a great singer and he’s got an awesome vibe live and people just really respond to him. You can’t really ask anything more from the guy.
Scottydawg: I think he’s a fantastic addition to Drowning Pool. His vocals are incredible. You’ve also changed label companies and now you’re with Eleven Seven Music. What problems did you experience that brought the change in record companies?
Stevie: Well things went south with us and Wind-Up and had been for a long time. They wanted us to be a band that we’re just not. You know we don’t sound like Nirvana and we don’t play pop-punk songs, and we’re never going to. That’s the kinda frickin’ vibe that they were trying to push on us. We just had enough of it and wanted out to do our own thing. And another reason why we all just love this record is because, for the most part, recorded after we got away from Wind-Up and before we signed to Eleven Seven. So like I was saying, there really is almost no label A&R dude input at all on the record. It’s just us without having to worry about label politics and all the crap that goes along with that. As we were getting near to finishing the record, that’s when we started looking around for a deal to put the record out. We talked to a bunch of people and Eleven Seven were the ones that showed us the most enthusiasm about the material and seemed like they wanted to make something happen. They were cool with us putting “Soldiers” as a free download. A lot of labels wouldn’t have done that. So far we couldn’t be happier with them.
Scottydawg: How did you guys come up with writing the song “Soldiers”?
Stevie: Right after we toured over in the Persian Gulf for the first time, we got home and took a break for the holidays. When we got back together to continue writing songs for the record, that was the first song we came up with. The experience in the Gulf was so fresh in everyone’s mind and it didn’t take long to put the lyrics together. Once we started, the rest kinda just wrote itself.
Scottydawg: As Drowning Pool and reaching a certain level worldwide, what do you feel could possibly be the next level in your career?
Stevie: If it’s one thing in this band and this industry that has taught me, you never know from day to day. The worst things and the greatest things can happen to you in back to back days. So I’ve given up on having any expectations whatsoever. If “Soldiers” does well or another single does well, I’ll be happy and enjoy it. Right now just having Ryan in the band and finally having a new record out, putting a lot of the crap behind us, just having fun and playing together all night; as long as we can just do that, I’ll be happy. I don’t ask for anything more.
Scottydawg: Personal level, what do you guys do in your spare time when you’re not on stage?
Stevie: Well we’re all football fans so in our spare time we’re all consumed with watching the games and we have our own Drowning Pool fantasy league. So we spend our time with that during the fall. Outside of that, everyone’s got family so we all split off and hang out with them. So that makes up quite of our day. But there isn’t a time that goes by when you’re not walking around and pondering some idea of a future song.
Scottydawg: First starting out as a local band, what were some of your musical inspirations?
Stevie: A lot of it goes back to the 80’s metal days. We’re all huge Motley Crue fans and old school Metallica like the Master of Puppets days. So that mindset originally brought us all together. I remember Mike (Luce, drums) and I use to play together in a garage cover band. I think the only songs we did were from the Metallica days. We use to just sit there and jam those songs over and over again. So that’s really a big part of where we came from.
Scottydawg: 2008 Presidency election…who’s the winner (laugh)?
Stevie: Man it’s hard to say. Considering the last round of elections we had in the Senate where Democrats took it over and had just a strong showing, I think that shows the way Americans are leaning right now. I strongly believe that a Democrat will win the White House. I just don’t see how Republicans can come back after that defeat. If they do that’ll be some real political maneuvering.
Scottydawg: Finally any advice you might give to upcoming local bands?
Stevie: Yeah! Any show you’re offered, go play it. I don’t care if it’s for two dollars or no dollars. When we were starting out, we had a lot of friends in local bands that got offered shows that were far away and they pass it up. They’re like “it’s gonna cost us fifty bucks in gas and they’re not paying us”. You gotta try to be everywhere you can all the time. That’s what we did. We would make up a bunch of flyers for a Dallas show and just drive around passing them out and try to cover as much ground as we could. Eventually you might get lucky and be at the right place at the right time.
Scottydawg: Well, Stevie, I want to thank you for your time. You guys are living your dream and using that to give back to the community. Thanks, man. The website for the organization is www.thisisforthesoldiers.org and Drowing Pool’s website is www.drowningpool.com. We can also catch you on myspace at www.myspace.com/drowningpool.
Stevie: You got it all brother. Thanks so much for having me and I appreciate it.
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